Is economics about allocating assets or social status?

Asking, I don't know. Boggles my mind that a person with $2 billion would waste an hour of time to acquire another billion.

Thought experiment: Say that free for the taking zero point energy was discovered and all labor was done by robots, and every sort of consumer good was free for the asking/taking. Thanks to free energy and robots, every part of the dry earth could be used for building residences.

1. How would shorelines and mountain tops be allocated?

2. How would Las Vegas, NV and Mt Athos evolve?

3. In other words, if money didn't matter, would not humans find a way to raise their own social status and to dump of people they thought beneath them?

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Asking, I don't know.

Asking, I don't know. Boggles my mind that a person with $2 billion would waste an hour of time to acquire another billion.

You can do much more with 3 billions than with 2 billions. You don't know what because you're not the target of advertisers.

Economics is about choices

Economics is about choices made under conditions of scarcity. While status games are more likely to be zero-sum than traditional goods, keep in mind that increases in wealth and the development of new technologies often lead to the proliferation of new dimensions of status - more games to play.

Robin Hanson often writes on the economics of science fiction, or the economics of future technology, and what this can do to conditions of scarcity.

You're completely right,

You're completely right, Micha. You might be interested in this article on consumer behavior in Second Life. Basically, they behave exactly like people in regular life, with status-seeking consumption:

When people are given the opportunity to create a fantasy world, they can and do defy the laws of gravity (you can fly in Second Life), but not of economics or human nature. Players in this digital, global game don’t have to work, but many do. They don’t need to change clothes, fix their hair, or buy and furnish a home, but many do. They don’t need to have drinks in their hands at the virtual bar, but they buy cocktails anyway, just to look right, to feel comfortable.

Second Life residents find ways to make money so they can spend it to do things, look impressive, and get more stuff, even if it’s made only of pixels. In a place where people should never have to clean out their closets, some end up devoting hours to organizing their things, purging, even holding yard sales.

I find this encouraging, as it means I might still have a job when we're all uploads.

Second life selection

People who stick with Second Life are already filtered. The ones who are left are interested in what it provides. And it provides appearance, show. There is no nourishment from the food - eating is merely show, for others. There is no shelter from the houses - those are also merely show, for others. What Second Life provides is the look, the appearance, of real life, so the users are already those of us who are interested in appearances, in putting on a display for the benefit of others.

People consume for the sake of display in Second Life because that's pretty much all that can be done with the stuff of Second Life. And people have needles stuck into their skin at an acupuncturist's because that's pretty all that's going to happen at an acupuncturist's. But it would be a mistake to infer that humanity has a general tendency to want to have needles stuck into its skin, and similarly it would be a mistake to infer that humanity has a general tendency to consume for the sake of display.

I am not saying that humanity does not have that general tendency. I am speaking only about the inference from Second Life. Even if a claim is true, not every argument for it is strong.

Good point. But, presumably,

Good point. But, presumably, if people wanted to live their online lives in a Lennon-esque commune with no property, then there would be an online system to support it. Instead, the consumerist Second Life is the popular platform, so it apparently appeals to more people.

(OK, I'm not sure that I buy that argument, but hey, I want to believe that when free to choose, people choose capitalism.)